Berkeley Police Department to address racial bias in police stops, searches

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Doug Smith/Staff

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The Police Review Commission, or PRC, addressed racial disparities in individuals stopped by police at its Wednesday meeting.

Berkeley Police Department will incorporate the recommendations for approaching racial bias in policing set forth in a report by the Center for Policing Equity, or CPE. Also addressed at the meeting was Commissioner Andrea Prichett’s concerns about transparency from BPD over the dissolution of a homeless encampment.

The CPE report concluded that Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to be stopped by Berkeley police officers than white people. CPE included 13 recommendations for BPD to follow in the final report, including “changing the use of force data capture protocol to register every use of force by BPD officers, regardless of weapon use, injury, or complaint.”

BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood said at the meeting that a “general order” to report all uses of force — including those without weapon use — can be expected but that he does not want to set a deadline because of BPD’s “major workload.”

Greenwood added that it would be important to collect data on an individual’s “perceived race” when they are stopped and searched, as well as different racial groups’ “yield rate,” or the likelihood that a search yields an arrest, to help reduce racial bias.

Greenwood said at the meeting that he would consider recommendations from various sources, including PRC, CPE and BPD, before reporting what BPD “can and can’t do.” A response to CPE is anticipated in BPD’s September six-month crime report, according to Greenwood.

PRC also passed a motion to request an after action report from the city regarding BPD’s disbandment of a homeless encampment Feb. 8 at Old City Hall.

Prichett allegedly requested the after action report in February through a Public Records Act, or PRA, request. Her request was denied because it was an “investigative record and is not required to be disclosed,” according to an email presented at the meeting from City Attorney Farimah Brown to Prichett.

Commissioner Ismail Ramsey, an attorney, was the only commissioner to vote against the motion. He said at the meeting that he assumed BPD was not intentionally trying to violate the PRA but had made an analysis of the act and was acting in accordance with the law.

Prichett said during the meeting that she was prevented from observing the dissolution of the homeless encampment by police officers, who put up caution tape.

“When we can’t have access to these documents, that means our function of oversight is curtailed,” Prichett said at the meeting. “If I can’t watch them on the street … I don’t know how we can do our job. We’re not asking for sensitive information — does this mean everything is confidential at this point? Has the shield really gone down? What do we have access to?”

Alyssa Bernardino covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.